Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Morning After The Lighthouse Hearing

Legitimate Concerns And Unreasonable Delay

Traffic congestion, the likes of which we haven't seen since, well, the last time we drove down Merchants Concourse near Old Country Road.

One-bedroom apartments from $234,000 (with units priced at more than $1 million). Certainly no way to ease the housing crunch in Nassau County, and not an inducement to keep our college grads and young workforce on the island.

Charles Wang and Scott Rechler -- the main forces behind the Lighthouse Project -- woefully unprepared to answer the simplest questions posed by the Hempstead Town Board, whose concerns, from traffic, to housing, to jamming 20 pounds of bologna into a 10 pound bag, certainly had merit. [What? Wang and Rechler couldn't afford to hire Barry Nelson?]

Yes, the Lighthouse Project, as with any initiative of such magnitude, drew at least as much criticism as it did praise at the Town's public hearing.

Questions that beg for answers, on the one hand, and a demand that we find practical solutions, and move forward, on the other.

Traffic congestion? Absolutely. And where in Nassau County, from the main thoroughfares to the side streets clogged with parked cars, is there no snarled, bottle-necked, and slowed to a crawl traffic.

Until officialdom deems it essential, and the public is willing to eject itself from the driver's seat, there will be no viable mass transit alternatives (ala light rail), and the immovable roadways will persist.

Affordable housing? Clearly, a one-bedroom starting at $234,000 is nowhere near affordable. Sorry, Charlie (and Scott). This is not Manhattan.

Okay, you're in this to make money, and you will take what the market will bear -- and then some. Still, an affordable housing component is a must for a project of this scope and breadth. You owe at least that much to the core of people who have supported this project since Day One -- the young Islander fans who, if forced off Long island by out-of-reach housing, may just follow the hockey team to Kansas City, or wherever.

The environment? The impact on Long Island's water table. Run-off and waste finding its way to our storm sewers and leaching down to our aquifers. Geez. Since when does anyone on Long Island -- where we've been abusing our water supply for two generations -- give a hoot about that?

"Just Build it!," as supporters of the Lighthouse proclaim, is no more a panacea for Nassau's long-awaited and much needed renaissance, than "slow and steady, wait and see," as propounded by Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, is a prelude to smart growth.

As for "Just Zone It!," another catch phrase thrown in the mix, well, why not? Seems that the Town's Zoning Board zones everything else -- or at least carves out an exception for it.

The Lighthouse Project needs to move forward, and well before we pass from the first decade of the 21st Century into the next.

That said, Nassau County, indeed, all of Long Island, and its taxpaying inhabitants, must not be so willing to move forward in haphazard haste, without regard to the consequences, lest this centerpiece of the New Suburbia envisioned by Tom Suozzi, be doomed to failure -- the brownfield of the next generation -- even before the first shovel hits dirt at the Coliseum.


  1. Solving problems such as indequate infrastructure and lack of affordable housing requires local government that is willing to be an active and willing partner, if not actually willing to exert the type of leadership needed to bring about meaningful change. Instead our Town government seems to think that its job is to oppose the kind of economic development that is so sorely needed here. The Town can decide to thumb its nose at Wang because they think he should be doing more about low-income housing or addressing our infrastructure inadequacies, but what then, are THEY doing to address these issues? These problems have been with us for decades, and Mitchell Field has been left undeveloped for decades, and yet the Town of Hempstead, despite all its boasts and all its rhetoric, has done little to bring about real solutions in all that time. Why should we then expect a private developer to be the answer to problems we have had for so long, and which have been so badly managed by our elected officials? Stated another way, if we don't move forward on Lighthouse, what then is the Town's plan? Another thirty of forty years of inertia?

  2. Doomed? That isnt what Kate Murray says.

    I like this site and read often. Please dont buy into the calls of ignorant NIMBYs.

  3. If they build it do you think the new ticket prices will be doubled or tripled?